Shawn ran down the stairs, his socked-feet slipping on the last one but he caught himself roughly on the railing. He followed the sound of his mother’s footsteps, loud and echoing in the room with a sharpness that gave Shawn chills.
Shawn ran into the living room, panting as he watched his mother open the door. She had a suitcase in one hand and her purse on her arm, a passport held in her hand. Shawn gaped, standing in his faded jeans and baggy t-shirt, speechless.
She was actually leaving.
“M—Mom,” stuttered Shawn as she turned back toward him sadly, her hand still on the doorknob. “Mom, please,” he begged, shoulders dropping and he swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Please, don’t go. Please—”
“Goose,” she said softly, her eyes holding something, some sort of emotion that Shawn couldn’t read. His heart hammered in his chest. “You know how your father and I have been,” she whispered, shaking her head.
“I’ll come with you then,” said Shawn quickly, realizing that his desperation was leaking into his words but he didn’t care. He knew his parents argued; all parents did, right? It was normal. Completely normal. No need to tear apart a family. Shawn knew his father; he knew that his mother deserved so much more than the man Henry was, but she couldn’t… she couldn’t leave. Shawn turned back toward the stairs, clinging onto his spark of hope. “I’ll just grab a few things and we can go wherever—”
Madeleine reached out a hand and grasped Shawn’s arm, pulling him back as he started toward the stairs. He looked back at her, his heart ripping to shreds inside him as he watched her shake her head. “Your father and I had an agreement, Shawn… I have to go. I’m sorry, Goose.”
“But—Mom,” whispered Shawn, but before he could say another word, she let his arm go and walked through the door without another look back. Shawn watched the door shut, stumbling back a step, feeling numb. This wasn’t supposed to happen. His parents weren’t supposed to split up. He had a Trig test on Monday. He was going to watch Gus’ tryout for the male cheerleaders tomorrow night.
His mother wasn’t supposed to leave, right in front of his eyes.
Things weren’t supposed to fall apart.
Shawn wanted to rip the door back open, he wanted to run outside and stop her. He could convince her to stay. He could convince her to take her with him. He could be there for her.
But he stood still.
He didn’t know how long he stood, staring at that door, feeling a heaviness settle on him in the thick silence of the house. It was empty now.
Somehow, Shawn managed to move his legs. He turned around, and looked up. Henry stood in the doorway to the living room, his eyes glued to the door, standing just as still, just as stricken as Shawn had been. Hot rage surged through Shawn’s veins, and he jabbed a finger to the door. “What the hell happened?” he exclaimed, his voice thick with a mixture of anger and pain. “Mom… She can’t… She wouldn’t just…” Shawn looked back to the door, feeling pain fill the numbness in his chest. He shook his head, whipping back toward his father. “I thought you guys were talking, you—you guys had that therapist—”
Henry just shrugged, his eyes empty. “There’s nothing I can do, Shawn.”
“Nothing you can do?” repeated Shawn, his voice building in anger. He felt a hot tear run down his cheek. “Of course there’s something you can do! Go after her! Apologize for whatever you did and beg for her to forgive you! You owe her that much!” he exclaimed, his voice cracking, a second tear joining the first. “You owe me that much!”
Henry huffed out a livid breath and raised his eyes from the floor. “No, Shawn!” he yelled, his voice shaking the empty house, stopping any response that Shawn would have retorted with. “I am not going after her,” growled Henry. He took a breath, shutting his eyes, then looked at Shawn again, his voice low. “It’s over. Done.”
Shawn stared at his father, each word hitting him like a fist in his stomach, forcing the air out of his lungs. No. His father ruined his childhood, his future, his life.
And now, his father was ruining his family.
“Kid,” began Henry, but Shawn whipped his head up sharply, his eyes burning in fury.
“No.” he snapped. “Don’t call me that.” Contempt dripped from each word. “You are not my father.” snarled Shawn, the rage coursing through his veins. “Not anymore.” He turned on his heel and walked to the door.
“We’re done, Henry.” said Shawn, opening the door, pausing with an arm on the doorframe, not turning around as he said, low and controlled, “I hate you.”
And the door slammed shut, the echo jarring the empty room with a chilling sense of bitter cold finality.
Shawn looked at his mother, as if he thought she was asking a stupid question. And, in a way, he felt as though she was. She knew what happened.
And that’s exactly what he told her now, as she sat next to him in the empty office at the police department. “With dad?” asked Shawn, drawing out the words. “We were both there. We don’t need to revisit the past,” he muttered, shaking his head at the mere thought of having to dive back into those memories.
Madeleine didn’t meet his eyes. “Maybe we do.”
Shawn sighed in irritation, crossing his arms and leaning angrily back against the cushions of the couch. It wasn’t comfortable, and there were no pillows in sight. “Well, I’m not sure I want to forgive him for what happened.”
Madeleine cocked her head, and with a spurt of annoyance, Shawn recognized one of his mother’s talk-therapy tricks as she pressed him, asking, “The divorce?”
Shawn sighed, straightening, giving up his reluctance as the emotions from that day came rushing back. “That wasn’t what happened, Mom. It was the way that it happened. I mean, let’s call it what it was.” Fury darkened Shawn’s eyes. “He left us. He left you.” Red-hot anger laced his voice as he bit off each word. “He ended up with the house and he left you to pick up the pieces.” Shawn scoffed angrily, crossing his arms across his chest, averting his eyes. “That’s not exactly what I call hero material, you know?”
It took his mother a few moments to speak, and Shawn was surprised to hear her voice soft when she said, “Shawn… I left him.”
Not buying his mother’s lie for a second, Shawn barked a laugh, and muttered, “Come on, Mom, you don’t have to spin this for me, okay?” Shawn dropped his head into his hands, wishing he hadn’t reopened the memories, feeling those emotions he pushed so far away rushing back to the surface.
“Let me be clear.”
Shawn lifted his head at the sudden firmness in his mother’s voice. He was surprised to see the tears brimming in her eyes as she looked him dead in the eye. “Your father was wonderful to me. He wanted to keep going to counseling, he kept saying we could make it… but the writing was on the wall a long time.”
Shawn shook his head, unsure if he didn’t hear her correctly or…
He didn’t want to.
“You’re losing me here, Mom,” whispered Shawn, looking back at her.
Madeleine shut her eyes, stopping her tears from falling. She shook her head and her gaze locked onto Shawn’s. “When I got that job out of town, it was an incredible opportunity and I was afraid I would never have a chance again,” she avoided his eyes, wringing her hands around each other, guilt written across her face. “So, I took it.” She looked back at Shawn, her eyes still shining with unshed tears. Shawn was quiet. Still. “You were into your senior year,” his mother said with a shrug. “Your path was set… it seemed like the right time, if… such a thing is possible.” She looked at him sadly. “I thought, of all people, you would be okay.” She shut her eyes. “And I am so sorry.”
Shawn shook it off, not willing himself to believe a word of it. “Mom,” he placed a hand on his mother’s and gave her a smile. “You don’t ever have to be sorry. About anything,” he assured her, but she shook her head firmly.
“Don’t you spin this.” she said with an underlying force that hit Shawn straight in the chest. Madeleine shook her head. “Sometimes I get the worst realizations.” She looked at him. “I know…” she shut her eyes again. “I know that I failed you. But… I think, that day…” She opened her eyes, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips. “My life… began again.” Shawn dropped his mother’s hand, feeling the wind rush out of his lungs. He watched that smile, that happiness in his mother’s eyes, as she recalled one of the worst days of his life. Shawn felt that numbness, that same, frigid numbness he felt all those years ago, flood his veins—
“Gonna sit in the car all day, Shawn?”
Shawn shook himself, tearing away from the memory. Gus was peering oddly at him, bending back into the Echo. Shawn realized Gus had stopped the car a while ago and Shawn still hadn’t removed his seatbelt.
He slowly pulled himself out of the vehicle. He looked up and Gus was staring at him in concern. Shawn hated that look; he’d almost always preferred Gus’ default disappointed glare than his concerned gaze. “Shawn…” said Gus uncertainly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Shawn shook himself again, trying to push away the emotions. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since he’d spoken to his mother. After she told him, he left the room, and went straight to the nearest bar. He wasn’t lying to her when he said that he didn’t want to revisit the past. The past was painful. That conversation with his mother in the station haunted him now, and Shawn could barely focus on anything else. And how could he? The very event that drove Shawn to leave Santa Barbara behind was a lie. He felt foolish, like his parents treated him as a child, sugar-coating the truth. And to know that Henry had lied, all this time, had let Shawn blame him for this for years...
“Shawn... You’re freaking me out.”
Shawn blinked, looking back at his friend, realizing his hand was still resting on the handle of the passenger door. Shawn let it go and rubbed the back of his neck. Pull yourself together, man, he told himself firmly. “Nah, buddy, I’m fine. I’m just... tired.” Shawn searched for a distraction, landing on something he was almost positive would deflect from him immediately. “It took a lot out of me to plan that case to get you your job back.”
The concern washed straight out of Gus’ face and Shawn was silently impressed with his own quick thinking. “That case?” Gus repeated. “You mean that prank you pulled on my boss, making him think his house was haunted?” Gus crossed his arms, staring daggers, telling Shawn that it was going to take far more than three days for Gus to forget about that one. ”That case?”
Shawn hid a smile, glad to have shifted the conversation away from himself. “That’d be the one.” He walked around the car and headed to the door of the Psych office. Shawn stopped in front of the door, suddenly flashing back fifteen years as he stood, frozen, staring blankly at the door his mother left through. Back then, he’d blamed Henry for her leaving. But… leaving was her choice. Madeleine told Shawn that herself.
She chose to leave him.
“Don’t you forget that you’re the reason you even had to get my job back!” said Gus behind him irritably, snapping Shawn back to reality.
“That’s it, buddy,” said Shawn, shaking himself. “Let it all out.” Shawn felt the exhaustion of staying awake for the better part of thirty hours weighing on him. He opened the door, not surprised to find it unlocked; he always forgot to lock it.
Shawn held up a hand to stop Gus’ words as he heard something rustling in the office. Someone was inside. Shawn turned toward Gus and held a finger to his lips, noting the sudden fear in Gus’ face—Gus heard it too. Shawn slowly eased himself through the doorway, following the sound of movement, feeling Gus at his back. Shawn reached down and grabbed the umbrella leaning beside the door. He held it high as he carefully walked into the office—
“Shawn, really? An umbrella?”
Shawn almost dropped the weapon. His face screwed up in confusion. “Dad?”
Henry stood up from Shawn’s desk chair, giving Shawn a sarcastic grin. Shawn froze, hearing echoes replay in his head.
“No, Shawn. I left her. It’s over.”
“I hate you.”
Shawn firmly shoved the emotions away, not wanting to deal with them. No, it was more than not wanting to.
“Mr. Spencer?” asked Gus, coming up behind Shawn, holding—
“What kind of damage was that going to do?” asked Shawn, getting himself back under control, seeing Gus’ own shoe in his hand. Gus pursed his lips and shoved the shoe back on his foot. Shawn tossed the umbrella, turning back to his father. He hadn’t seen him since that night at the restaurant.
Shawn sat down across from his father, eyeing the man’s suit and tie with disgust. “Look,” said Shawn, “I’m just going to make this easier for the both of us, okay? I know exactly what you’re up to and I’m not going to let it happen.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed. “Let what happen, Shawn?” His eyes mirrored Shawn’s anger as he said, “Yeah, and if you don’t mind my saying so, you’ve been a real jerk to me all week. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you your mother was coming back into town, I’m sorry that you think I messed up your youth, I’m sorry that you think I screwed up your whole life.” Henry leaned forward, eyes flashing with anger. “Get over it.”
Shawn tensed at the words, shaking his head as he stood. “You had your chance,” he said. “Leave her alone.”
Shawn tore from the flashback as Gus elbowed him in the ribs. “Jeez!” hissed Shawn, rubbing the new bruise that was bound to form. “That was too hard!”
“Then stop daydreaming, would you?” said Gus. “Your dad is talking to you.”
Shawn looked back at Henry, kicking himself. He could barely function. This wasn’t like him; Shawn was almost always able to push any issue this heavy straight out of his mind, managing to cover it up with a joke.
So why couldn’t he do that now?
Shawn shrugged. “What are you doing here, Dad?” asked Shawn, trying, again, to shake his inner battle.
“Look,” said Henry, holding up a hand. “I know you’re still pissed at me—”
“Is this all you came to do?” asked Shawn roughly, nowhere near wanting to talk about anything with his father right now. “Because Gus and I have some actual work to do—”
“As a matter of fact,” growled Henry, irritated, “that’s why I came. I want to… hire you.”
Shawn gaped. That was the last thing he’d expected Henry to say. The last thing Shawn knew, his father thought his psychic detective business was an embarrassment. A joke. Since when did that change?
Blindsided, Shawn stammered, “Um—what?”
“Hire us?” asked Gus incredulously, waving a finger between himself and Shawn, equally as shocked. “Me and him?”
“Yes,” sighed Henry crossing his arms. He didn’t look at either Shawn or Gus as he said, “One of my lodge buddies is nervous about a guy getting close to his wife. I thought you two could… look into it.” Henry kept his gaze averted from theirs, as if
he was handing over pride with his words.
Shawn merely laughed, his shock morphing into amusement. “A cheating boyfriends case? Really, Dad?”
“No, Shawn,” said Henry, annoyed, and Shawn immediately knew he’d struck a nerve. “It’s more than that. He thinks this guy is into some shady business.”
Shawn shrugged and dropped into his desk chair. “Take it to the cops, then, I’m sure they’ll look into it for you.” He looked at Henry in mock-wonder. “Actually—aren’t you trained in stalking, too? Why don’t you follow the guy home?”
“Because,” growled Henry, seeming to be holding onto the last of his patience, if he even had any to begin with. “He’s seen my face and he’d recognize me. And I’m not a cop anymore.” Henry sighed again. “It’s one favor, Shawn.”
Still not wanting any part in it, Shawn groaned, “Dad—”
“Shawn!” exclaimed Henry, frustrated. “I know that you’re pissed, but can you just—”
“Get over it?” asked Shawn, heat prickling in him. He and Henry stared each other down. The tension from that night at the restaurant crawled back, thickening the air around them.
“We’ll take the case,” said Gus suddenly, and both Henry and Shawn looked at him.
“What?” snapped Shawn incredulously.
“Thank you, Gus,” said Henry with a nod in Gus’ direction. He grabbed his jacket and headed out the back door. “His name is James Hunt.” And then he left, the door shutting behind him.
“What the hell was that, Gus?” exclaimed Shawn, feeling utterly betrayed. Gus almost always had his back when it came to arguments with his father.
“It’s called revenge, Shawn,” said Gus with a snicker. He dropped into his chair and leaned back contentedly. He grinned. “After this, we’ll be even.”
Shawn groaned. The last thing he wanted to do was a favor for his father. In fact, the only thing Shawn truly wanted to do was jump on his Norton and drive the hell away from Santa Barbara. Shawn sighed. He’d done that once before, and dare he admit it, running away didn’t fix anything then and it wouldn’t now.
Shawn looked over at Gus, who had turned to his computer monitor and began reading something off of it. Half of Shawn’s mind screamed at him to tell Gus what he learned about his parents; Gus was Shawn’s sounding board for every life issue he’d ever faced. Gus was there when Shawn’s parents fought and he was there when they split up. Granted, Shawn left a year afterward, but he’d always known he’d have Gus here waiting for when—or if—he’d come home. Above all, Gus was the only person Shawn could truly talk to; Shawn could never talk to his father because… well, that was pretty self-explanatory. Even before the divorce, his mother was—Shawn didn’t like to admit it—hardly ever around to listen; she’d always been busy with something else, some business trip whisking her away, some police station requiring her to do psych evaluations through the night. She just wasn’t exactly… there. Shawn tried to think of other options, but he didn’t have many. Shawn would never dream of dumping his personal problems on Juliet, and Shawn nearly laughed out loud at the thought of going to Lassiter.
No, Shawn decided eventually, scoffing at the air. He didn’t need to talk about this, much less think about it. He would just ignore it. It would go away. Shawn leaned back in his chair and picked up his squishy frog stress toy and squeezed it a few times. It would go away.
It had to.